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Milestones in Thalassemia

An article on sickle cell disease and thalassemia by Elliot Vichinsky, MD, and these accompanying milestones were published in December 2008 as part of the special ASH anniversary brochure, 50 Years in Hematology: Research That Revolutionized Patient Care.

1925 Thomas Cooley is the first to describe thalassemia.
1938 Thalassemia is recognized as a genetic disease.
1948 Thalassemia is determined to be caused by an abnormal hemoglobin.
1964 The thalassemia mutation is found to protect against malaria.
1975 Treatment with regular blood transfusions begins to improve patient survival.
1977 Prenatal diagnosis for thalassemia becomes available.
1977 Richard Propper discovers that the iron toxicity caused by frequent blood transfusions can be eliminated with desferoxamine.
Azacytidine is found to increase fetal hemoglobin in thalassemia patients.
Bone marrow transplantation is first used to cure thalassemia.
1998 Oral chelators (such as deferiprone) are shown to be clinically beneficial for the treatment of iron toxicity.
Specialized radiology imaging identifies iron toxicity in the heart.
Hepcidin, a hormone that controls iron absorption in the intestines, is first discovered.
2003 Deferasirox, a new iron chelator, becomes available.
2007 Gene therapy is used for the first time in a patient with beta thalassemia, a more severe form of the disorder.